Syria Direct: News Update 7-8-15

Civilian repercussions as rebels try to take Daraa city

More than 50 regime barrel-bomb and conventional airstrikes pummeled rebel-held villages in Daraa province Tuesday after the launch of a renewed Southern Storm rebel offensive to wrest the provincial capital from regime control one day before, reported the pro-opposition “We are all Houran martyrs” news network on its Facebook page.

“The rebels’ renewal of the Southern Storm offensive on Monday will only bring more regime air raids against rebel-held villages in Daraa,” Fursan al-Hourani, a correspondent with pro-opposition Umayya Media Center who moves around Daraa province, told Syria Direct on Wednesday.

“They’ve already hit more than 15 villages so far,” he added.

Aside from a series of airstrikes against the villages of Busra al-Harir and Sheikh Maskeen in the northern Daraa countryside, regime barrel bombs smashed into the village of Nasib, only 2km from the Jordanian border, killing at least 10 civilians, reported the pro-opposition Houran Independent Journalists media network on Facebook Tuesday.

The beginning of the Southern Storm rebel offensive to capture Daraa’s provincial capital, which includes a number of Western and Gulf-backed rebel brigades, was first announced on June 24.

Victory Army, regime exchange prisoners in Idlib

The Victory Army and Syrian regime representative exchanged prisoners Tuesday in the Idlib countryside according to several opposition and regime sources.

Conflicting accounts have emerged of who was released in Ariha, site of one of the last remaining regime bases in Idlib province that was captured by the Idlib Victory Army at the end of May.

Ten women and six men were released by the regime in exchange for three regime soldiers held by Jabhat a-Nusra, a leading Victory Army faction, reported pro-opposition Orient News on Wednesday.

One of the women was reportedly the mother of a correspondent for Orient News.

State-owned Tishreen newspaper confirmed the prisoner exchange, claiming that “terrorist organizations” released 27 individuals they kidnapped from Ishtabraq.

Civilians released in Idlib Victory Army-regime exchange. Photo courtesy of Mu'ath al-Abbas